Colombian Student Faces Prison Charges for Sharing an Academic Article Online | Electronic Frontier Foundation 2014-07-23


"In many parts of the developing world, students face barriers to access academic materials. Libraries are often inadequate, and schools and universities are often unable to pay dues for expensive, specialized databases. For these students, the Internet is a vital tool and resource to access materials that are otherwise unavailable to them. Yet despite the opportunities enabled by the Internet, there are still major risks to accessing and sharing academic resources online. A current situation in Colombia exemplifies this problem: a graduate student is facing four to eight years in prison for sharing an academic article on the Internet. He wasn't making a personal profit from sharing the article—he simply intended for other scientists like him to be able to access and cite this scientific research. Diego Gomez, 26, is a Master's student who has been researching biodiversity and working on the conservation of reptiles and amphibians for several years in the South American region. Throughout his young career, the biggest obstacle he faced was in accessing academic resources that existed on global research databases ... He is being sued under a criminal law that was reformed in 2006, following the conclusion of a free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. The new law was meant to fulfill the trade agreement's restrictive copyright standards, and it expanded criminal penalties for copyright infringement, increasing possible prison sentences and monetary fines ... Colombia does not have flexible fair use system like in the United States. It has a closed list of exceptions and limitations to the rights of authors (derecho de autor). This list was issued more than 20 years ago and are narrowly tailored to some specific situations that are not at all applicable to the digital age. Therefore none of these will apply directly to his case even if it was done for educational purposes.  Fortunately, Gomez still has a strong legal defense against these exorbitant penalties. Under Colombian criminal law, there are two main issues that the court will also need to consider. The first is mens rea, which weighs the malicious intent behind the action. Clearly, Gomez had no intention of violating copyright for personal gain. Which gets us to the second important legal consideration, called antijurídica: whether there was actual harm against the economic rights of the author. Initially the article was posted on Scribd and was available for download without a fee. But at some point afterwards, the website changed its terms of use to require unregistered users to pay five dollars to download documents. When Gomez realized this, he took down the article immediately. The author of the paper may have believed that Gomez was attempting to profit in light of Scribd's new fee system, but Gomez did not make anything off of the work nor did he intend to do so ..."


From feeds:

Fair Use Tracker » Deeplinks
CLS / ROC » Deeplinks
Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.comment oa.litigation oa.columbia oa.south


Maira Sutton

Date tagged:

07/23/2014, 15:40

Date published:

07/23/2014, 04:54